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Plate Tectonics

Plate tectonics is the theory proposing that Earth’s outer rocky shell is divided into seven major and several smaller rigid plates. Forces generated by heat losses from the planet’s interior constantly move the plates about. Plate movements, ongoing over millions of years (see Geological History), open and close ocean basins, generate volcanoes, raise mountains, facilitate accumulation of mineral and petroleum deposits, and influence evolution and climate change. Friction between plates prevents steady motion and stores energy that is released in sudden movements, causing earthquakes.